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Latash, M. L., Friedman, J., Kim, S.W., Feldman, A.G., Zatsiorsky, V.M. (2010). Prehension Synergies and Control with Referent Hand Configurations. Exp Brain Res, 202(1), 213–229.
Abstract: We used the framework of the equilibrium-point hypothesis (in its updated form based on the notion of referent configuration) to investigate the multi-digit synergies at two levels of a hypothetical hierarchy involved in prehensile actions. Synergies were analyzed at the thumb-virtual finger level (virtual finger is an imaginary digit with the mechanical action equivalent to that of the four actual fingers) and at the individual finger level. The subjects performed very quick vertical movements of a handle into a target. A load could be attached off-center to provide a pronation or supination torque. In a few trials, the handle was unexpectedly fixed to the table and the digits slipped off the sensors. In such trials, the hand stopped at a higher vertical position and rotated into pronation or supination depending on the expected torque. The aperture showed non-monotonic changes with a large, fast decrease and further increase, ending up with a smaller distance between the thumb and the fingers as compared to unperturbed trials. Multi-digit synergies were quantified using indices of co-variation between digit forces and moments of force across unperturbed trials. Prior to the lifting action, high synergy indices were observed at the individual finger level while modest indices were observed at the thumb-virtual finger level. During the lifting action, the synergies at the individual finger level disappeared while the synergy indices became higher at the thumb-virtual finger level. The results support the basic premise that, within a given task, setting a referent configuration may be described with a few referent values of variables that influence the equilibrium state, to which the system is attracted. Moreover, the referent configuration hypothesis can help interpret the data related to the trade-off between synergies at different hierarchical levels.
Liebermann, D. G., Biess, A., Friedman, J., Gielen, C. C. A. M., & Flash, T. (2006). Intrinsic joint kinematic planning. I: reassessing the Listing's law constraint in the control of three-dimensional arm movements. Exp Brain Res, 171(2), 139–154.
Abstract: This study tested the validity of the assumption that intrinsic kinematic constraints, such as Listing's law, can account for the geometric features of three-dimensional arm movements. In principle, if the arm joints follow a Listing's constraint, the hand paths may be predicted. Four individuals performed 'extended arm', 'radial', 'frontal plane', and 'random mixed' movements to visual targets to test Listing's law assumption. Three-dimensional rotation vectors of the upper arm and forearm were calculated from three-dimensional marker data. Data fitting techniques were used to test Donders' and Listing's laws. The coefficient values obtained from fitting rotation vectors to the surfaces described by a second-order equation were analyzed. The results showed that the coefficients that represent curvature and twist of the surfaces were often not significantly different from zero, particularly not during randomly mixed and extended arm movements. These coefficients for forearm rotations were larger compared to those for the upper arm segment rotations. The mean thickness of the rotation surfaces ranged between approximately 1.7 degrees and 4.7 degrees for the rotation vectors of the upper arm segment and approximately 2.6 degrees and 7.5 degrees for those of the forearm. During frontal plane movements, forearm rotations showed large twist scores while upper arm segment rotations showed large curvatures, although the thickness of the surfaces remained low. The curvatures, but not the thicknesses of the surfaces, were larger for large versus small amplitude radial movements. In conclusion, when examining the surfaces obtained for the different movement types, the rotation vectors may lie within manifolds that are anywhere between curved or twisted manifolds. However, a two-dimensional thick surface may roughly represent a global arm constraint. Our findings suggest that Listing's law is implemented for some types of arm movement, such as pointing to targets with the extended arm and during radial reaching movements.